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IN THE CARPENTER’S WORKSHOP: The rifle that never fired

There is a huge debate about guns in the news these days.  The right to bear arms is under attack by some and defended by others.

However this debate turns out, the struggle brings up a point which might help us focus our faith a little more carefully and frequently.  We can sight in the targets, and make sure that we are aiming in the right direction.

The Christian faith, like the rifle which puts food on the table and protects us from our enemies, is something which is to be used.  It should almost be a verb.

When we faith, we are an instrument through which God works his will.   

Many people treat faith as a trophy to place on the mantel.  We have it, but rarely use it. We fail to believe that things which are happening around us call for faith to be put to the shoulder and fired.

A history professor once visited a fine ancestral home in Virginia.  He followed the aged owner, the last of a distinguished colonial family, as she proudly showed him through her home.  An ancient rifle above the fireplace intrigued him, so he asked if he might take it down and examine it.  

She replied, “Oh, I’m very sorry.  I just can’t allow it.  You see, it just wouldn’t be safe.  The rifle is loaded and primed, ready to fire.  My great-grandfather kept it there in constant readiness against the moment he might strike a blow for the freedom of the colonies.” 

The professor said: “Oh, then he died before the American Revolution came?” 

“No,” came the reply.  “Actually he did not.  He lived to a ripe old age and died in 1802,  but he never had any confidence in George Washington as a general or as a Commander in Chief.  You see, he knew him as a boy and didn’t believe he could ever lead an army to victory.”

What a tragedy!  The entire world had changed around this man, and he never knew!  A victorious general, a war fought and won, a brand new country, and even though he lived through it all, he never believed.

Perhaps we have just found faith or have placed it on the mantel for a long time and are looking for ways to put it into action.  A visit to a neighbor.  An invitation to church.  Forgiving what we once thought was unforgivable.  

Brand new faith can be like the rifle we just brought home from the sporting goods store  in a shiny new case.  We put it inside a beautiful display cabinet or a heavy safe, but we never use it.

Or it can be used for target practice, for safe and productive hunting, by law enforcement or military for protection of country and community.  A gun is made to be used, even though many end up in the possession of gun collectors who accumulate and store.

Faith must be action.  In fact, the scripture says that faith without works is dead.  Because we believe, we step forward and do.

Jesus called to his disciples and said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  He did not say remain where you are and do the same thing you were doing before I met you.

A faith which is used is one which helps us cope in time of trouble.  A faith which is used makes us able to set out on a journey in confidence rather than fear.  A faith which is used prompts us to give to others rather than keep all we have for ourselves.

Do we desire the kind of faith which we kept all our lives, but never fired?  We must find the ammunition/fuel for faith which comes from the Bible to be able to do good things for others and share eternal life with seekers.  To unlock the miracle, to see the wonder of God in action, is our aim!

The other thing about faith is that, like some weapons, it is very valuable.

The historical Colt Walker Pistol is one of the most expensive firearms ever sold.  At an auction in 2008, this handgun, which was made for U.S. Marshals back in the 1840s, was sold for $920,000.

Faith is certainly more valuable than this.  But very likely this Colt Walker will reside in the collection of the buyer and never be fired.

God’s gift of faith is more precious than any other thing on earth.  What makes it even more valuable is when we give it away.  In fact, the more we give, the more we have.  Faith never goes away; it multiplies exponentially.

Dick Gregory wrote, “When I lost my rifle, the Army charged me 85 dollars.  That is why in the Navy the Captain goes down with the ship.” 

Let our faith be even more valuable than this!  And let it be fired every day in the building of God’s kingdom!